History accounts the events of the past through the eyes of the chronicler.
Genealogy registers the ancestry, that is to say, the bloodline, of who we are
and how we connect to significant pioneers. The history of the early
families of New Spain could remain obscure were it not for the documentation
found in the archives, such as public records, the census, parish rolls, to name
a few. With great pride, I present this tiny part of my family’s rich
and stated history. As a descendant of the Dona Feliciana Camacho y Botello
family, I introduce to you this short story on this prominent pioneer family.
Captain Louis Juchereau de Saint Denis, the eleventh of twelve children of
Nicolas Juchereau and Marie Thérèse Giffard, was born at Beauport, New France
(Quebec, Canada), on September 17, 1674. Captain Louis’ grandfather, Jean
Juchereau, and his two brothers, Noël, and Pierre had emigrated from the town
of Tourouvre in Perche, France. These three brothers recruited up to eighty
families for New France. They became the founders and the early settlers of
Beauport, located just northeast of Québec City on the St Lawrence River.
When young Louis became of age, he was sent to France for his education.
In late 1699, St. Denis sailed to Louisiana from La Rochelle, France with his
first cousin, the newly appointed 27 year old governor, Pierre Le Moyne, Sieur
d'Iberville. This would be Le Moyne, Sieur d'Iberville’s second expedition
into this reigon. In Louisiana St. Denis found himself as the
commander of a fort on the Mississippi River and another at Biloxi Bay. During
this time he carried out important explorations to the west of the Bay and
upstream, to the lower region of the Red River. These journeys brought him into
contact with Karankawa and Caddo Indians and he learned invaluable lessons on
how to cope in the wilderness land of Louisiana.
In September 1713, Antoine de La Mothe, Sieur de Cadillac, the French governor
of Louisiana, responded to a letter received from the Spanish priest, Father
Francisco Hidalgo, urging the governor to establish a post near East Texas.
The governor dispatched St. Denis, this Canadian-born adventurer, along with a
company of men from Mobile, Alabama. This same year, St. Denis founded in
Louisiana the village-post of Natchitoches. Natchitoches, recognized as
the oldest permanent settlement in Louisiana, plays a major role in Louisiana
and Texas history, and given notoriety by the filming of the movie “Steel
Magnolias”. In 1714, St. Denis built a garrisoned post to repel the
Spanish of Texas and to promote trade with the locals. An illicit trade soon
flourished with the Indians who traded with both the French and the Spanish.
This post became the first permanent European settlement in the territory that
would later be known as the Louisiana Purchase. From Natchitoches he traveled to
the lands of the Hasinai Indians, and from then on to Spanish outposts on the
On July 19, 1714, St. Denis strode into the Presidio San Juan Bautista Del Rio
Grande de Norte, located in the state of Coahulia, Mexico. The Commander of the
presidio, Major Diego Ramón, placed St. Denis under a pleasant house arrest.
The Spanish Crown had enacted an order prohibiting the entry of foreign traders
or their merchandise into Spanish territory. St. Denis violated the
prohibition by bearing goods banned by Spanish mercantile restrictions.
Major Ramón awaited instructions from Mexico City on what to do with this
foreigner bearing such goods. In the interim, St. Denis, a Frenchman and a
cavalier, and wasting no time, used the occasion to court, and win a promise of
marriage from Ramón's beautiful step-granddaughter, Dona Maria Manuela Sánchez
Navarro y Gomez Mascorro. Manuela was the daughter of Don Diego Sanchez
Navarro y Camacho and Dona Mariana Gomez Mascorro de la Garza. She was the
granddaughter of Don Diego Sanchez Navarro and Dona Feliciana Camacho y Botello.
When widowed, Dona Feliciana married a second time to the Major Diego Ramon, the
former Governor of Coahuila, and now the Commander of the Presidio. St.
Denis, ordered to Mexico City, defended himself properly and competently.
Soon after, on July 17, 1716, he became a member of the Ramón Expedition.
Appointed as commissary officer, his duties included the founding of Spanish
missions in East Texas. This entrada or expedition would represent
Spain’s commitment to a permanent occupation of the province of Texas.
This same year and on February 17, 1716, St. Denis had married Manuela in the
local Chapel of the Presidio San Juan Bautista. During 1716 and 1717, he
participated in the founding of six missions and a presidio in East Texas.
On April 1717, he returned to San Juan Bautista with a sizable amount of
merchandise. Although well received on his first visit, the era of
Franco-Spanish cooperation ended with the death of King Louis XIV and thereby
concluded the thirteen years’ War of the Spanish Succession (1701-1714).
St. Denis, again found himself viewed a foreigner under suspicion.
However, this time he underwent more severe repercussions. To avoid a transfer
to Spain as a prisoner when sent to Mexico City a second time, St. Denis fled
the capital. By February 1719, he made his way back to Natchitoches. In 1721,
Spanish officials permitted his wife, Manuela, to join him, and the couple spent
their remaining years at the French outpost on the Red River. The 1722 census
for Natchitoches lists the St. Denis’ and two children. The 1726 census of
Natchitoches, LA. indexes St. Denis, his wife and three children.
St. Denis served for 24 years as Commander of Post St. Jean Baptiste in the
Natchitoches District. From his command at Natchitoches, St. Denis was often a
bothersome thorn for Spanish Texas. To this day controversy continues to
surround his motives and actions. He insisted that his marriage to Manuela Sánchez
indicated a desire to become a Spanish subject. Suspicious
Spaniards, however, saw him as a covert agent of France.
For his leadership in dealing with the native Indians and his victory at
Pensacola, King Louis XV of France granted St. Denis knighthood in the military
Order of St. Louis. Without question, his accomplishments during his
military career are indisputable. St. Denis contributed to the expanded
geographical knowledge of the East Texas area for both France and Spain. He
brought Spanish and French settlements into close proximity. Most
significantly, he made banned trade a way of life on the borders of Spanish
Texas and French Louisiana thereby firmly establishing trade on the Camino Real
(The King’s Highway). On January 10, 1743, the 69-year-old captain wrote to
Jean Frédéric Phélypeaux, Count of Maurepas at Versailles indicating
that he no longer could perform his duties as commandant of Natchitoches. He
asked permission to retire to New Spain (Mexico) with his wife and children.
Count of Maurepas denied his request. St. Denis died at Natchitoches
on June 11, 1744. His tomb is under the site of the first parish church
constructed in Natchitoches in 1728, St Francis, and located just outside the
stockade of Post St. Jean Baptiste. Survived by Manuela and seven
children, one daughter, Dona Marie Petronille Feliciana Jucereau St. Denis, was
married to Captain Athanase Fortune Christophe de Mézières.
achievements of Captain
Athanase Fortune Christophe de Mézières
deserve mention. He
was born in 1719, the son of Louis Christophe de Mézières and Marie
Antoinette Clugny, two prominent noble families of Paris.
His parents had him baptized on March 26, 1719.
His career as an infantryman began in Louisiana in the early
1730’s. Over the next
thirty years, he served as ensign, lieutenant, and captain.
On April 18, 1746, while assigned to the French outpost in
Natchitoches, LA, he
married Marie Petronille Feliciana Juchereau St. Denis.
The marriage was brief. Marie
died in 1746 while giving birth to their only child.
Mézières later married Pelagie Fazende.
On September 15, 1763, shortly after Louisiana passed from the
French to Spanish control, he was discharged from the infantry.
Like many Frenchmen in Louisiana at that time, he offered his
services to Spain. In late
1769, Alejandro O’Reilly, then governor of Louisiana, appointed Mézières
Lieutenant Governor of Natchitoches.
Skilled in Latin, French, and Spanish, as well as in several Indian
languages, Mézières embarked on an extraordinary career as a Spanish
agent to the Indians of northern Texas.
In 1770, he carried out the first of several expeditions to the Red
River. In the following year,
he successfully negotiated treaties with the Kichais, Tawakonis, Taovayas,
and the Tonkawas by proxy. In
1778, Bernardo de Galvez, governor of Louisiana, released Mézières for
additional services in Texas. He
was to forge an alliance among the Spanish, Comanches, and Nortenos
against the Apaches. To this
end, Mézières traveled extensively over the course of a year to the new
town of Bucareli, a settlement in Texas that eventually failed to prosper,
to the Red River and even to New Orleans.
En route between Los Adaes, now a historic site in Louisiana,
and Nacogdoches, Texas, he suffered a serious brain injury when
thrown from his horse. After
convalescing, he continued on to San Antonio, the capital of Texas,
arriving in September 1779. It
was here that he learned of his appointment as governor of Texas. Mézières,
now about 60 years of age, remained gravely ill and did not assume this
office. He died at San Antonio on November 2, 1779, never fully recovering
from his injuries. The
proposed general alliance with the Comanches and Nortenos was never
realized. He had one child by his first wife, Marie, eight by his second
Dona Manuela died on April 16, 1758, and buried next to her husband. The
annals of Natchitoches record that she was the wealthiest woman in Louisiana.
Northwestern State University of Louisiana now occupies the property of her
estate. Throughout the parishes of Louisiana, a genealogist can find the
descendants of the unions between St. Denis and Sanchez.
Post St. Jean Baptiste continued to serve as a military outpost and commercial
trade center until 1762. When England defeated France in the French and Indian
War, France surrendered the Louisiana colony to Spain. In 1800, the secret
Treaty of San Ildefonso officially returned the Louisiana territory west of the
Mississippi to France. The Treaty discharged the Spanish from the
continued deficits caused by the colony and relieved the growing possibility
that Spain, to retain control of the lands, would find herself at war with the
ever-growing numbers of Americans.
On May 2, 1803, the U.S. representatives
Livingston and Monroe agreed to purchase the Louisiana territory for $15M.
The United States doubled in size overnight! Louisiana was officially
transferred from Spain to France on November 30, 1803, and on December 20,
1803, France transferred Louisiana to the United States. To date, this
purchase of real estate has the distinction of being the biggest bargain
Celiz, Fray Francisco. Diary of the Alarcon Expedition into Texas,
Published by the Quivira Society.
Chabot, Frederick C. With the Maker of San Antonio.
Chipman, D.E. & Joseph, H.D. Explorers and Settlers of Spanish
De Zavala, Adina. History and Legends of the Alamo and Other
Foster, William C. Spanish Expeditions into Texas 1689-1768.
Syers William Edwards. Texas:The Beginning 1519-1834
Weddle, Robert S. San Juan Bautista - Gateway to
Wharton, Clarence Remember Goliad
Hadley, Diana. The Presidio and Militia on the Northern Frontier of
The Handbook of Texas Online